Autopsy of a Sealed Pool in Avacyn Restored

Unfortunately, I had left my bag at Gamer’s Gauntlet Monday, rendering me helpless to talk in depth about my sealed pool from the prerelease. With it in tow now, hopefully the dissection of this 84 will improve your performance at this week’s release events. I will probably be at GG’s 12AM Friday morning release to trade, talk, and maybe play a few rounds(that’s LATE Thursday night to be clear), so stop by and say hi, and that you can’t get enough of this little blog.

Enough begging for plugs. The business at hand is my sealed pool, and whether or not it was even good. But before we answer that question, it’s important to note the range of emotions I ran during the twenty minute build period. At first, I was excited just because I was cracking AR for the first time. After examining my rares and uncommons, I was less excited, but still pumped to try new cards. Ten minutes more, and I was just shaking my head, confused as to why nothing seemed to be any good. People actually commented that I was just sitting, my head slowly lolling back and forth. Even now, I don’t know what I should have done with this pool, and there is a slight frown on my face.

White

  • Angelic Wall x2
  • Devout Chaplain
  • Holy Justicar
  • Archangel
  • Seraph of Dawn
  • Moonlight Geist
  • Nearheath Pilgrim
  • Defang
  • Zealous Strike
  • Cloudshift x2
  • Angel’s Mercy
  • Midnight Duelist

Blue

  • Spectral Prison
  • Stern Mentor
  • Amass the Components
  • Gryff Vanguard
  • Latch Seeker
  • Geist Snatch
  • Scrapskin Drake
  • Peel From Reality
  • Captain of the Mists x2
  • Galvanic Alchemist
  • Rotcrown Ghoul
  • Dreadwaters

Black

  • Ghoulflesh
  • Searchlight Geist
  • Mental Agony
  • Unhallowed Pact
  • Undead Executioner
  • Evernight Shade
  • Driver of the Dead
  • Demonic Taskmaster
  • Crypt Creeper
  • Butcher Ghoul
  • Blood Artist x2
  • Bone Splinters
  • Descent Into Madness
  • Triumph of Cruelty
  • Hunted Ghoul

Red

  • Dangerous Wager
  • Demolish
  • Gang of Devils
  • Riot Ringleader
  • Hanweir Lancer x2
  • Fervent Cathar
  • Heirs of Stromkirk
  • Mad Prophet
  • Lightning Prowess
  • Thunderbolt
  • Somberwald Vigilante
  • Malicious Intent
  • Battle Hymn

Green

  • Geist Trappers
  • Nightshade Peddler
  • Pathbreaker Wurm
  • Uvenwald Tracker
  • Timberland Guide
  • Borderland Ranger
  • Wolfir Avenger
  • Revenge of the Hunted
  • Nettle Swine
  • Howlgeist
  • Yew Spirit
  • Wildwood Geist
  • Flowering Lumberknot
  • Eaten by Spiders
  • Abundant Growth
  • Grounded
  • Snare the Skies x2
  • Diregraf Escort
  • Natural End

Colorless

  • Bladed Bracers x2
  • Angel’s Tomb
  • Otherworld Atlas
  • Scroll of Avacyn
  • Seraph Sanctuary x2

Since I’m confident that most of you, and me really, haven’t learned how to just look at a pool full of cards we barely know and judge it effectively, so I’ll help you out by just saying that this pool doesn’t seem very good. It’s not terrible by any means, and it has powerful cards, but it is lacking in depth across most colors not called Green.

When I opened this pool, as I stacked the cards in a pile to be sorted, I glanced at the rares and uncommons as I did so. I’ve changed the method by which I build over the last year or so, mainly because of MTGO, and getting to see top players execute their method in videos. Conley Woods, a personal favorite of mine if for no other reason than his videos are highly entertaining, always uses ‘rarity sort’ first when developing a sealed deck, and I’ve found it works well for me. You shouldn’t become too attached to wanting to play some sweet rare, but since rares/mythics are the most complex(and powerful) cards you can get, it makes sense to keep them in mind during the entirety of your deckbuilding process. My rares did not seem all that awesome. Descent into Madness was useless, Otherworld Atlas was awesome in a mill deck and no where else, and Captain of the Mists seemed decent but mana intensive. Uvenwald Tracker and Revenge of the Hunted seemed like solid starting points for deckbuilding; they were clearly the best rares I had, and luckily they were in the same color. Before starting in earnest, I quickly checked for a mill option, but found it lacking. Stern Mentor was solid enough to play on it’s own, and Rotcrown Ghoul served as weak filler, but Dreadwaters was unplayable outside dedicated mill, so that plan was dismissed, at least as a primary kill condition.

I laid out the best cards in each color in columns, with creatures at the top and a gap between dudes and spells to get a feel for where I should be looking. Green was easily the deepest color with at least 11 playable creatures. and a 12th if Flowering Lumberknot had enough support. Red had some low drops, and some splashable removal. Black had Evernight Shade, which is awesome but requires a huge commitment to Black. Outside that, nothing else seemed good except Bone Splinters. Blue had a bunch of things that were mana intensive, but interesting, like Galvanic Alchemist and Captain of the Mists. It also had a counterspell, a bounce spell, and a decent card drawing spell. White had good cards, but was very shallow. It only had six guys that could attack,  and didn’t bring much else to the table. In the colorless pile, there were two weak equipments and an Angel’s Tomb. I had 16 cards in the unplayable pile, which I’m not sure is alot, but I felt handcuffed by it when figuring out what colors to choose.

After the overview, I usually examine a few go-to builds. This format is probably not going to have the nuts removal deck very often because the removal is all weak, and several of the common spells only deal with one or two toughness creatures. I clearly didn’t have it. Next is fliers, which doesn’t have set colors, but again, I didn’t have it with six flying creatures that could attack. Usually if there is some mechanic that you can build around in the format, like Allies or Metalcraft, that gets a look next. This being a new set, the two themes are ‘loner’ and Soulbond, but only ‘loner’ is a real build-around-me sort of thing. Aside from a Taskmaster, which is very good, there wasn’t much to support it.

Since there was only twenty minutes to build, I didn’t have the time to evaluate a bunch of similar color combinations. I knew I was playing a normal deck, and I knew it was going to be Green, so I stacked up the piles, and laid out the Green cards I could play. There were two good mana fixers there, so a light splash entered the picture for later. My Green curve was level, with an average of two creatures in each spot from one to six, and three seemingly good spells. This included the Flowering Lumberknot, who I would only include if I felt I could reliably play him active on turn four, so I didn’t count the Pathbreaker Wurm in the Soulbond count.

White got the call first since I had Nearheath Pilgrim and Archangel, along with a precious removal spell in Defang and a solid trick, Zealous Strike. The problem is that it just looked…boring. This is just about where I started making the lemon face and shaking my head. This deck had one way to get back into a game:Revenge of the Hunted. The build was solid, but it certainly didn’t strike me as the best build despite having an over average number of creatures, a good curve, and somewhat powerful creatures. Noting what could be splashed, the White was set aside in favor of Blue.

After a bit of tinkering, I found the better part of a list I liked. The curve was not nearly as good, but it had more power. Latch Seeker and double Captain of the Mists can solve problems and win games. The spells got a fair upgrade with Amass the Components, a card I initially balked at, but I had forgotten the power of Sifting. Geist Snatch seemed weak, but always countered an excellent spell. Peel From Reality didn’t have much to play unfairly with, but is just a good card. Somehow, some solid cards ended up on the sidelines. Nettle Swine and Scrapskin Drake didn’t make the deck, though there was reasoning behind it. Scrappy is usually an auto include, but I felt that because this is an Angel oriented set, it would not dominate the skies like it usually did. I’m pretty sure I was wrong on that one; he’s still great. Nettle Swine was left off because it just didn’t work with my game plan of either using Captain on turn four, Amassing some Components, or countering a relevant spell with Geist Snatch. Finally, Spectral Prison was axed out of fear that some random aura would beat me; the spoiler had shown there were many auras, though I didn’t play against any all day. Currently, the quirky list looked as such.

  • Uvenwald Tracker
  • Nightshade Peddler
  • Timberland Guide
  • Borderland Ranger
  • Wolfir Avenger
  • Latch Seeker
  • Galvanic Alchemist
  • Captain of the Mists x2
  • Yew Spirit
  • Gryff Vanguard
  • Pathbreaker Wurm
  • Howlgeist
  • Peel from Reality
  • Geist Snatch
  • Amass the Components
  • Abundant Growth
  • Eaten by Spiders
  • Revenge of the Hunted

Nineteen cards all told. Some of the cards that didn’t get played could get jammed in, or even all of them. Adding them plus a Bladed Bracers, a card that seemed fine with all the Humans in the deck, and especially good with Captain of the Mists, would be the requisite 23, but the thought of playing everything that already got cut to avoid a splash when there was an Abundant Growth and a Ranger just sitting there set off a mental alarm. A cursory reexamination revealed two possible splashes, as Black had some good cards, but they didn’t play well with what I had. White brought Nearheath Pilgrim, which shouldn’t be played on two even with a Plains, Holy Justicar, another tapper, and Devout Chaplain, a walking Revoke Existence. Red had Mad Prophet, a backwards looter but with the discard being in the cost instead of the effect, Thunderbolt, and Lightning Prowess, which I learned after a few rounds also granted haste. Gang of Devils got no consideration, though it should have. The extra mana for some reason excluded it from consideration, even though it’s an excellent card and probably should have made the deck.

In the end, White was incorrectly chosen to be the splash. I relied on LSV’s set review to make the decision for me, and only White was out then. He had given Devout Chaplain a 3.5, and Holy Justicar a 3.0, two cards I also thought would be good. However, with all the other mana hungry creatures in the deck, and the overall low immediate impact the cards had on the board, it was easily the worse choice. After two rounds, Red got subbed in for White, and performed much better. Wildwood Geist also got promoted in place of Howlgeist, which just wasn’t good against the decks I faced, as no one bothered to ever kill anything, and being a 5/5 for one less mana was very important with the Tracker. Scrappy never found his way into the deck.

My matches were fairly complex, and difficult to recall with complete accuracy, so just a quick summary follows.

Round one was the combo of all removal plus all terrible creatures. he had four spells that dealt two damage, either in combat or at Sorcery speed, and the worst creatures possible, including Midnight Duelist. After realizing what his deck was up to, I just stopped attacking into things, and build board presence, making him unable to win. Game two I drew one spell, but that one spell was Revenge of the Hunted, wrathing his crappy team and turning around a game that was being lost to Assassin’s Stronghold. Note that my opponent played Divine Deflection during this match, a card that is very difficult to play around correctly.

Round two was against Lee, a dude I had never met, but quickly learned he was a solid player, if a slow one. He was playing a four color deck with multiple fixing spells. Game one was won on the back of Soul of the Harvest backed up by good removal spells. Game two he built a huge advantage by sifting a few times and playing Borderland Ranger, but I had Alchemist, Bladed Bracers, and Tracker. After the second time he chose to break up my combo with nothing else going on, I correctly concluded that he had nothing that could beat it, and somehow won after sticking it on the fourth try. Game three had time called just as it was about to get very interesting. I don’t recall the exact sequence of cards in my hand, but there was a Captain, an Alchemist, and Tracker was already in play. Instead, I played for the draw. During the match, I learned that Lee was friends with Chase, and stopped being a jerk to him. Well, I wasn’t being a real jerk, but did things like asking him his target for Divine Deflection when he tapped eight mana. When he read the first line only, I told him “KEEP READING,” so he would choose a target, knowing when he did declare a target I was dead. As we were signing the slip, I decided to scoop to him because he was Chase’s friend, my deck wasn’t great, it was already 3:30AM, and his deck was just awesome. Either way, a draw wasn’t helpful, since it just ensured an extra round had to be won by both of us.

Round three I played against someone who was very, very tired, and although he had a great deck, he didn’t play his best, but almost beat me anyway with Heirs of Stromkirk, the firebreathing Soulbond guy, and the first strike Soulbond guy. I think he also had the Red/White legendary Angel, but it was countered or bounced or something. Note that he played Divine Deflection, a card I’m seriously already sick of.

Round four was Don Oldaugh’s turn to beat up on me. We played a very interactive match that went three games, but in the end I lost to a hexproof Latch Seeker combined with a miracled Thunderous Wrath. Earlier in the game I chose to attack and trade Borderland Rangers when I had Peel from Reality in hand and only one Green mana, thinking that I would eventually draw another to cast the Revenge of the Hunted and blow him out. Even when it didn’t appear, I was ahead with my own Latch Seeker until it was Crippling Chilled. I should listen to my gut, not about ‘knowing’ that I won’t draw another Green mana, but just listening to that inner voice that said ‘don’t attack with the Ranger.’ It was a close call whether to attack at all, and the game ended with the Peel still in hand anyway. I don’t think it was a matter of Brucing myself, as that’s all about self sabotage. It was me unable to understand what my subconscious was trying to tell me by giving me physical cues just as I was tapping the Ranger. It’s a moment that clearly stands out in my mind, and a feeling we all should learn to recognize. If i had to describe it, all I could say is that my body clenched up ever so slightly, though if you’ve experienced it you know it was more, yet indescribable at the same time. It was 6:15AM after Round four, and I left for home, exhausted but happy with my effort considering the card pool, and the fact I did scoop a match.

See you all at the release!

Nigel

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Autopsy of a Sealed Pool in Avacyn Restored

  1. Brandon

    Can you make the card names have tooltips that show what they do (for the casual fans!)

    • theolentangy

      I really wanted to, but didn’t know how, and didn’t want to slow myself down. Maybe I’ll try to edit it tonight and put those links in.

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